Editorial: A true fact leaves false impression

Jun. 18, 2013 @ 05:17 PM

Would news organizations please stop saying things such as this, from an Associated Press story: “The GOP controls the state’s executive and legislative branches simultaneously for the first time since 1870.”

While it is technically true, the repetition of this fact implies an entirely misleading point.

The Republican Party of 1870 owed its control of the state to Reconstruction — post-Civil War federal mandates that dictated much of what the state could and couldn’t do. The party had a large contingent of carpetbaggers and former slaves — in the early 1870s, the Republican membership of the legislature included 30 former slaves. Federal troops occupied the state capital.

The Democratic Party of the time, meanwhile, cozied up to the Ku Klux Klan and by 1876 had reasserted white supremacy in the state.

Both parties have retained their names, but neither is remotely what it had been 143 years ago. Both have evolved. There is no straight-line comparison to be drawn, and over the intervening years the two parties at times have been not so far apart ideologically. The Republican positions of today would not have looked terribly alien to North Carolina Democrats of the not-so-distant past.

That members of the Republican Party have been out of power so long is interesting historical trivia, but repeating it constantly in news stories implies that the ideology of the current Republican Party has been out of control in North Carolina that long. Nothing could be further from the truth.